nigerian trafficking in italy

There were no days off. Nigeria has equally stepped up efforts to contain the situation. It is a typical Sicilian village house with a large kitchen, a terrace with views out on to the verdant hills. In Palermo the women usually end up in the multicultural neighbourhood of Ballarò, where they are forced to work in what are called "connection houses" managed by "mamas", or they work on the streets. “So much time had passed, I thought the case had been dismissed,” De Masi told me. At the shelter, Ms Egbon says she wants to empower the women by giving them access to education - Italian classes and training that may help them get jobs. De Masi feared that if Susan was transferred to the reception centre, she would be picked up by her trafficker. This time Susan wanted to talk. Most are brought to Europe by Nigerian crime fraternities which are always looking for new ways of … One of the challenges was finding people who could translate from Igbo into Italian. “She was incredibly reliable. .css-orcmk8-HeadlineContainer{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-box-pack:justify;-webkit-justify-content:space-between;-ms-flex-pack:justify;justify-content:space-between;}Uganda's Yoweri Museveni declared election winner.css-1dedj2h-Rank{-webkit-align-self:center;-ms-flex-item-align:center;align-self:center;color:#B80000;margin-left:3.125rem;}1, Final execution of Trump presidency is carried out2, Centrist elected leader of Merkel's CDU party3, Tennis stars' arrival angers stranded Australians4, India begins world's biggest Covid vaccine drive5, End to Gibraltar land border prompts joy and trepidation6, Signal messaging service goes down amid user surge7, 'Like a medieval battle': The riots frontline8, Nasa's 'megarocket' set to fire up engines9, Why California is struggling to contain Covid10. To make themselves heard above the panicked and bewildered voices, De Masi and other aid workers climbed on to a table and shouted. A lawyer from a voluntary organisation helped Susan make an asylum application that would allow her to remain in the country, and after a few more weeks in detention she was transferred to a migrant reception centre in central Italy to wait for her case to be processed. Human traffickers tend to send their profits back to their home countries (wiretaps had revealed that Susan’s madam had boasted about owning several houses in Nigeria), and leave no assets in Italy. Respodning, Okah-Donli explained that for the fight of human trafficking to be won, international partners and stakeholders like Italy must key in into collaboration with Nigeria to record success. Criminal charges are usually dropped, or reduced to exploitation of prostitution, which is a misdemeanour. She had been promised work as a babysitter or a supermarket cashier. How I escaped sex trafficking in Italy – Nigerian lady. Italy has the largest population of Nigerians victimized to human trafficking; studies have found as many as 10,000 Nigerian prostitutes in Italy subjected to human trafficking. Becky is one Nigerian woman who survived the five-month journey to Italy. At first, it was often the police who would bring women off the streets to the shelter. She could not go back. “It was as if justice had been served not only for Susan, but for all the other women we had worked with,” she told me. In spite of the danger to witnesses and their families, the Italian system puts the onus on survivors to press charges against their traffickers. In Prato, Susan found herself living a nightmare. A woman who had been trafficked from Nigeria to Italy, 2014. usan’s case ended up in the offices of the anti-mafia directorate in Florence, close to where she had been forced into prostitution for the first time. Women of Benin City runs a drop-in centre, offering advice and, importantly, emotional support, which sets the group apart. Pietroiusti also has a rule: she only asks questions when it is strictly necessary. And as noted in the 2019 trafficking in persons Italy report, approximately 80 percent of trafficking victims are from Nigeria. Two years ago she and her colleagues were greatly helped in their efforts by the Oba of Benin City, an influential Nigerian traditional leader, when he placed a curse on the traffickers - turning the tables on them. Furious about the lies she had been told, Susan decided to document her new life in Italy. Susan laughed, pleased with the privacy and comfort. When she finally made it on the train, her phone began to ring. Female traffickers could be in detention together with their victims. She was nervous but determined. The investigation revealed that he had pressured Hillary to work overtime, so that she could pay her debt and become a madam – something that she never did. The traffickers prey on the women's spiritual beliefs so they become too afraid to speak up, fearing if they do so harm will come to them or loved ones back home. But people working with survivors believe that there is a widespread lack of interest in prosecuting traffickers, due in part to the fact that a large number of survivors are Black women. “Using these very old belief systems passed down through generations is a psychological form of control that is much stronger than any violence,” Princess Inyang Okokon, who runs Piam Onlus, an anti-trafficking NGO, told the Guardian in 2017. The first few minutes of the exchange are crucial. Before going to sleep, Susan took some selfies with De Masi and Quinto. The trial would last just one day. The previous spring, Susan had been persuaded to make the journey to Italy by a Nigerian woman called Ivie, who she met in her home village in the southern Nigerian state of Edo. She kept records of phone numbers and notes of what happened to her. The traffickers prey on the women's spiritual beliefs so they become too afraid to speak up, fearing if they do so harm will come to them or loved ones back home", Hundreds of migrants still dying in Med five years since 2015, Four-year-old's viral dinosaur song made into book. Susan’s main concern was to stay in Italy and protect her patron at all costs. The lack of investigative collaboration with Nigeria, Niger and Libya made it impossible to investigate or prosecute any of the middle men involved in Susan’s trafficking. Four in five of them were destined to become victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation. Investigations are complex and often slow, while traffickers move quickly, relocate their victims frequently and change their phone numbers multiple times. Under an agreement between Italy and Nigeria, Italian police forces may alert Nigerian authorities so that they can protect survivors’ relatives once a complaint has been filed, but this measure has proven ineffective. But things did not get easier for her. But the women around her were not laughing. But his main rival Bobi Wine claims vote-rigging and vows to produce evidence. What happens to your body in extreme heat? “So much time had passed, I thought the case had been dismissed,” De Masi told me. Read about our approach to external linking. • According to IOM, an astounding 94% of all Nigerian women trafficked to Europe for prostitution hail from Edo State, with Italy being the number one destination country. The trial was set for five months later, on 13 December 2019. Human trafficking of Nigerian women to Italy began in the 1980s because of the demand for low skilled labour in agriculture and services. She began taking pictures on her phone of the apartment where she was kept, and even snapped surreptitious photos of Ivie. The exploited women, and their children, were abandoned and left in isolation without food or money during the country’s three-month lockdown, which started in March, according to a recent report by the Guardian. Hillary was the only one who had paid back her €30,000 debt entirely. In Libya, Susan had been locked up for two weeks in a makeshift jail, crowded with people who were waiting to cross the sea to Europe. “She has nowhere to go.” An hour later, De Masi was at the lawyer’s office. Susan was among them, exhausted but determined to avoid deportation. “She was outraged that someone she had trusted could put her in danger,” De Masi told me. 4Trafficking of Nigerian Girls in Italy. In 2017, the UN’s International Organization for Migration reported that 80% were potential victims of sex trafficking, but numbers are hard to confirm. Hillary’s father, who lived in Nigeria, had been working closely with Ivie, and had recruited his own daughter, as well as other girls. The lawyer established the most important thing: that the woman who had trafficked Susan would not see her. She was given the use of the property by an Italian friend. VideoWhat does the world want from Joe Biden? Hillary, another young woman from Edo state, had been given the role of collecting the money at the end of the night and checking on the girls. Susan’s case ended up in the offices of the anti-mafia directorate in Florence, close to where she had been forced into prostitution for the first time. “Nobody,” Susan replied firmly. In one case, a survivor’s mother was killed. She repeated the same line when the madam called. When police officers stopped Marianne again and tried to put her in a shelter for the second time, she escaped again. If she didn’t pay, or if she spoke about it to anyone, her mother and brothers back home would be in danger. She wanted justice. Nigerian women make up the majority of African human trafficking victims in Europe, with most forced into prostitution. “I am not without sin,” Pietroiusti told me, “but among all the requests I get, I try to prioritise those cases that threaten human dignity.”, In trafficking cases, witnesses need both physical protection – they often live in shelters with secret addresses – and emotional support. Then she would be transferred to a migrant reception centre. And with that, Susan disappeared. Sex trafficking is big business. When Susan’s turn came, De Masi approached her and asked: “Who brought you here?”. Once every two weeks, Quinto, Be Free’s in-house criminal lawyer, joins the team in Ponte Galeria to help women who want to press charges against their traffickers. She reminded me what Quinto, who has salt-and-pepper short hair and always wears jeans and tennis shoes, often says: “Clients like me because I don’t look like a lawyer.”. Since 2015, about 21,000 Nigerian women and girls have arrived on Italian shores. The law usually pursues the madams, but, as Quinto pointed out, 90% of them have been forced into prostitution themselves. Not everybody involved in Susan’s trafficking was prosecuted. “It was nice to stay with both of them, they are so funny,” Susan told me, laughing. When she heard the sentence, De Masi cried. One morning in early February, she packed her phone and notebook in a small purse and left the house, saying she had to meet a client in a nearby town. Frustrated by Susan’s poor earnings, Ivie hit her so hard that Susan was afraid she was going to lose the sight in one eye. “They didn’t let me send any money home.”. Thousands of young women leave home in Nigeria every year on the promise of a good job in Europe, only to be trapped by debt and forced into prostitution. By the time the four madams were arrested, it was three years since Susan had filed her criminal complaint. Susan tried to keep a low profile at the train station, terrified that someone might recognise her, but she had no cash, and had to stop strangers to beg for money to buy a ticket. There were no days off. She remembers the names of all the survivors of the cases she worked on, and those of their traffickers. But in February 2016, a magistrate specialising in organised crime, Angela Pietroiusti, launched an investigation that would cut through layers of prejudice and bring the expertise of anti-mafia units to bear on sex trafficking. That day was like nothing she had ever experienced. But neither of them will likely ever see the money. The first few minutes of the exchange are crucial. She would like to go back to school, but more than anything she wants to be able to work and help her family back home. On Wednesdays, De Masi and her team Be Free usually set up in Ponte Galeria’s library, a dark room with few books and many mosquitos. The women each have their own rooms but share a kitchen and bathroom. They sat braiding each other's hair as they listened to Ms Egbon - and looking forward to the dinner to be made from goat's meat I had brought on special request from Palermo. In 2016, around 11,000 Nigerian women arrived in Italy by sea according to the International Organization for Migration. She provided her madam’s phone number and the names of the other girls.” As one of the few prosecutors handling human trafficking cases in her office, Pietroiusti was able to make a connection between Susan’s criminal complaint and the investigation she had recently started. Sometimes she and her colleagues approach the detainees in the corridors; sometimes it’s the women who enter the library and strike up a conversation. Views: 1,548 Blessing Okoedion rose from being a victim of sex trafficking to becoming an advocate in the fight against modern slavery. The report said the Italian authorities “did not meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking”. In the mountains of Sicily a Nigerian woman is leading a battle to help rescue women like herself from a life of forced sex work. “It’s the juju!” she screamed, convinced that she was being punished because she was about to betray her madam, to whom she had sworn an oath of loyalty back in Nigeria. Some of them bring new women to Italy in order to finish paying off their debt to their traffickers and find a way out of the streets, and others have been exploited for so long that they see exploitation of others as their only option for a better life. “From immigration offices to prosecutors’ offices, every door should be wide open to them. The Nigerian mafia has built Italy into a European hub, smuggling cocaine from South America, heroin from Asia, and trafficking women by the tens of thousands. If she had a fever, or had her period, she had to work. Sex trafficking is rife in Nigeria, in particular in southern Benin City, a recruiting ground for criminal gangs who smuggle women to Europe. The woman who picked up her file was an experienced special prosecutor named Angela Pietroiusti. Seeing De Masi and Quinto waiting for her at the station was a relief. Thanks to the detailed information Susan had provided, in June 2016 Pietroiusti obtained authorisation for a wiretap. “Oh Jesus!” Susan screamed, overjoyed. Castel Volturno in Campania is considered the headquarters of the Nigerian mafia in Europe. The hardest thing to bear was that her sacrifice was not even helping her family in Nigeria. rancesca De Masi has been visiting the Ponte Galeria women’s detention centre in south-west Rome every week since 2008. It had taken Pietroiusti a year to gather enough proof to file a request for an arrest warrant, and it would take two more years for the judge to sign it. The volunteers there understand the sexual relationships the women form with the traffickers, which also become a means of preventing their escape. Italy has been the stage for a cruel cycle of exploitation in which survivors of trafficking, after years of forced prostitution, have become traffickers themselves, the so-called “madams”. None of the victims were required to attend in person, but De Masi and Quinto were there to see the traffickers, who had caused so much pain and suffering, brought to justice. I said: ‘I’ll never get used to it.’”. As more survivors arrived, Susan remembered her time with the girls as a stretch of lonely, desperate days. Italy was a major proponent of the convention, which was signed in Palermo in December 2000. Italy. Her task is to identify human trafficking victims among the detainees, offer them counselling and legal help, and get them moved to a shelter. Her task is to identify human trafficking victims among the detainees, offer them counselling and legal help, and get them moved to a shelter. After 2009, when Italian law made it a criminal offence to enter and stay in the country without a visa, the fear of being arrested forced undocumented migrants to go underground. Susan knew that if she kept ignoring their calls, they would realise something was wrong. Pietroiusti is in her early 60s, and that day was wearing a sparkling blue glittery top, which made for a vivid contrast with metal detectors at the entrance of the building and the security guards outside her office – grim reminders of the dangers of her work. Half a dozen people were investigated, but in January 2017, just four madams, including Ivie’s daughter, were indicted for trafficking 17 young women and girls from Nigeria to Italy. “There was no way I was going to miss this day,” De Masi told me. Sex trafficking gangs in Italy left thousands of Nigerian sex trafficking survivors destitute of basic needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The trafficker called them “the little ones”, Pietroiusti said. Now, here in Italy, Susan knew that if she did not repay the debt, there would be terrible consequences. But this time, they were in luck. By Ottavia Spaggiari, Last modified on Mon 14 Sep 2020 12.00 BST. According to Quinto, the outcome often depends on the attitudes of whoever happens to be the prosecutor on the case. Four other young Nigerian women were already living there. “That’s when I decided to leave,” Susan said. Four years after she escaped her traffickers and filed the criminal complaint that would uncover an international trafficking network, Susan’s life is still in limbo. Susan had made it to Rome, and found the lawyer’s office before nightfall. In 2016 some 11,000 Nigerian women arrived in Italy by sea. The Trip to Italy Following her friend’s advice, she pays the required #250k and prepares for a … Her madam had celebrated the final payment by asking for another €2,000 as a “gift” and offering Hillary the opportunity to become a madam herself. A pre-trial hearing was set for July 2019, and Susan took the train to Florence. © 2021 BBC. Nigerian crime gangs have proliferated in Italy, controlling an extensive network of prostitutes and ordering them “on demand” from Nigeria, Italian police and prosecutors say. She had spent years in a shelter, sharing her room, bathroom and kitchen with other women. She did not yet know what Ivie had in store for her. But after Silvio Berlusconi’s rightwing government issued new legislation in 2009 to clamp down on undocumented migrants, the police attitude towards sex-trafficking victims started to change. Ivie had created a hierarchy, making it hard for the girls to bond. “Sometimes I kick her under the desk,” De Masi laughed – the kick is her sign to Quinto to slow down. De Masi and Quinto bought a bottle of wine to celebrate on the train back to Rome. But everything remains so difficult.”. .css-14iz86j-BoldText{font-weight:bold;}In our series of letters from African journalists, Ismail Einashe discovers how Nigerian women are standing up to traffickers in Italy. In 2018, she had spent two months in Nigeria’s Edo state to research the country’s anti-trafficking efforts. She had built a thriving business, and trained her 24-year-old daughter to run it for her, exploiting women her own age and younger. Filing criminal justice complaints is a way for women who have been trafficked to regain a feeling of power, De Masi said. The women were terrified. Susan’s case involved thousands of pages of phone records and transcribed conversations. (Foreign Correspondent: Louie Eroglu) Many Italians want to help Nigerian women, she says, but the trouble is that in a time of increasing anti-migrant sentiments, some other Italians do not want them to do so. Once they got the wiretaps in place, together with police officers and translators, Pietroiusti spent hundreds of hours building the case. It supports female victims of trafficking in Sicily - the majority of whom come from Nigeria's Edo state, the capital of which is Benin City. The madam she had been transferred to in northern Italy was never identified, nor were the male traffickers involved in her journey from Nigeria to Italy. In addition to witness testimony, the wiretaps also offered a window into the violence that the victims experienced on a daily basis. VideoOne girl's quest for clean water, The surveillance of Martin Luther King Jr. VideoThe surveillance of Martin Luther King Jr, Striking news pictures from around the world. The judge would hear the witnesses in court, one by one, but the defendants would be in a separate room in the courthouse, following their testimonies via videolink. Sometimes she and her colleagues approach the detainees in the corridors; sometimes it’s the women who enter the library and strike up a conversation. Susan’s information was detailed, reliable and well documented. I first met Ms Egbon in 2018, three years after she and other Nigerian women had set up the organisation Women of Benin City. Nigeria is the first African country to specifically ask for an Italian intervention to address the appalling problem of trafficking in minors and young women from Nigeria to Italy. “Let’s go,” she said. The Nigerian mafia has a strong presence throughout Italy. “The police priority was no longer to bring survivors to an anti-trafficking organisation or to women’s shelters and help them,” De Masi said. One reason convicting traffickers is so hard is because the crime usually involves large numbers of criminals working in multiple jurisdictions. For Ms Egbon, who has become part-aunty, part-councillor, part-sister to the women, the shelter is a dream come true. She then threw away her sim card, praying that they would believe her, and leave her and her family alone. “There was no way I was going to miss this day,” De Masi told me. In January she made only €420. Several Nigerian trafficking networks have expanded … De Masi’s fears proved correct. When Susan’s turn to see the judge came, she was shaking, but she quickly got over her nerves. “In the end, many cases go to trial for minor crimes with evidence that is easier to get,” Quinto explained. “But we managed to find some of them,” Pietroiusti said with a smile. “We can’t say openly that we are an anti-trafficking organisation,” De Masi explained. Research shows that about 10,000 Nigerian prostitutes in Italy are subjected to human trafficking. Ivie controlled her from afar, calling her often, and her new madam pressured her for money. Key to this investigation were the detailed notes and photographs that one woman, outraged at being forced into prostitution, had amassed in secret. That year, in an attempt to curb trafficking to Europe, Oba Ewuare II, the spiritual ruler of the kingdom of Benin, held a sacred ceremony to revoke all curses that sealed the debt bondage and set victims free. Nigerian women and girls are subjected to sex trafficking within Nigeria and throughout Europe, including in France, Italy, Spain, Austria, and Russia; in 2017, an international organization estimated 80 percent of all female Nigerian migrants in Italy are or will become sex trafficking victims. “I started telling the truth, and I became so relaxed,” she told me. This would protect her from deportation, but because she would not admit that she was recruited in Nigeria, Susan had to remain in the detention centre until the interview with the asylum commission, which was scheduled a month later. The defendants had chosen a fast-track trial – a tool in Italian law that speeds up the criminal process and, in case of conviction, allows a reduction of the sentence. The madam would regularly check in with the Nigerian and Arab men who served as jailers. She managed to pay off her traffickers - and now lives happily with her family in Palermo but she has a steely determination to stop others having to go through the same experience. The murders shocked people in Sicily and put a spotlight on the harrowing experiences Nigerian women face in forced prostitution. De Masi has been helping Susan fight for her right to remain in Italy and rebuild a life here. “Trafficking cases are as complex as mafia cases,” Pietroiusti told me when I met her in her office overlooking the city of Florence, with Brunelleschi’s dome and the Tuscan hills in the distance. The lack of interpreters from west Africa who can translate intercepted phone calls was one obstacle. Every night in the rain, every day,” Susan said. If survivors do file a complaint, their families back home are at risk of retaliation. Soon after, Ivie picked her up and brought her to an apartment in Prato, outside Florence. Once she got to the reception centre, Susan managed to get hold of a phone and re-established contact with Ivie. When she heard the news, in July 2015, that 66 young women from Nigeria, who had just arrived by boat in southern Italy, had been flown to Rome and taken to Ponte Galeria, De Masi had grabbed her car keys and rushed out the door. “She had provided a copy of her notebook, photos, names and personal information about her traffickers,” De Masi said. Susan underwent a traditional juju oath-taking ceremony, in front of a priest, in which she swore to pay the woman back and to be loyal to her. The Italian authorities have discovered an organization of Nigerian origins involved in the trafficking of minors for prostitution that made use of contacts in Libya and Italy to arrange the trips. “They didn’t tell me I would come here to be a prostitute,” Susan told me. “We have to work.”, Susan thought it must be a joke. In May, a criminal complaint was filed against Ivie on Susan’s behalf. The two main groups of Nigerian mafia that operate in Italy are the Supreme Eye and the Black Ax and are linked primarily to prostitution and to drug trafficking. Some women shouted in anger, others started to cry. Joy Ezekiel was trafficked to Italy and forced to work as a prostitute. A pre-trial hearing was set for July 2019, and Susan took the train to Florence. But one joined forces with investigators in Italy to expose the traffickers. But about a week after her arrival, the new madam went on a trip to Nigeria, leaving Susan with another woman whose control wasn’t as tight. Are your tinned tomatoes picked by slave labour? Enraged by her meagre earnings, Ivie would yell at her: “You’re not a serious girl.” She was forced to work the streets every night, from 5pm until 3am, standing in the cold and rain. A history of suffering The trafficking of Nigerian women for prostitution began in the late 1980s, according to the UN, when women were sent to Italy and forced into sex work. One of the survivors got a bad headache. And churches also play a role in raising money. Yet, at a global level, fewer than 12,000 prosecutions are brought against traffickers every year, resulting in fewer than 10,000 convictions. Some survivors are so scared of their traffickers that they deny they were trafficked and forced into prostitution, even when they are presented with the evidence. .css-1xgx53b-Link{font-family:ReithSans,Helvetica,Arial,freesans,sans-serif;font-weight:700;-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;color:#FFFFFF;}.css-1xgx53b-Link:hover,.css-1xgx53b-Link:focus{-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;}Read about our approach to external linking. As one of the key witnesses in a trafficking trial, it is too dangerous for her to go back to Nigeria. They explained that they would need to speak to each of the women individually. She had sworn her loyalty to Ivie, the woman she met in Edo state. At the time there were posters in Palermo announcing the news. “If I could choose, I would like to help old women.” She is now waiting for the Italian asylum commission to re-evaluate her case and to have her documents renewed. “She was angry as hell,” said De Masi. “The less you interview them, the better it is,” she told me. The men who are the key players in Libya, Europe and Nigeria remain beyond reach. Reporting for this story was supported by the Global Migration Project at Columbia Journalism School. Even with the evidence Susan had amassed, De Masi and Quinto knew how hard it would be to put together a case against her traffickers. “The other girls said: ‘You’ll get used to it’. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. After two months, Ivie came in a car to collect her. “Everybody calmed down,” she told me. They beat her badly and left a message for Susan: “Go back to your madam.” The threat had the opposite effect. In August 2016, once she had realised Marianne was under 18, Pietroiusti instructed police officers to stop her in the streets and take her to a shelter for minors while surveillance on the other women continued. To protect them from crossing paths with their traffickers, Pietroiusti invited them to wait in her office. She was building a case by following the women’s activities, but needed access to communications between the traffickers. Of the 70 survivors’ cases that Be Free handles every year, no more than three go to trial, and almost never for human trafficking or slavery. 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nigerian trafficking in italy 2021